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Slash gets into primo stance with his Les Paul while rocking The Fillmore in Detroit on September 22, 2012.
Photo by Ken Settle.
You said recently in one of the Ernie Ball Real to Reel episodes that the studio is intimidating. How do you get in the zone?
Yeah, the studio is a weird place. I enjoy being in the studio really because it’s an opportunity to bring whatever it is that you’ve been jamming on to some sort of recorded fruition. But trying to get what you want in the studio and working with certain people is really sort of a crapshoot.
As soon as the red light’s on, I tend to get inhibited, so I don’t play the same way I would at rehearsal. It means you’re overthinking it and you have to try to get past that, which takes a conscious effort. It’s hard, so for me to actually find my comfort zone in the studio, and really play from that place where I would go in a live situation, it’s just something that either happens or it doesn’t, ya know?
It seems like you and producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette had a real synergy and he pushed you in the studio.
Let me tell you something about Mike. Last October when we first started the whole writing process, all the way through the holiday, I realized I didn’t have a producer. Eric Valentine, who’s awesome, was busy doing something else and that didn’t seem like it was going to happen in the timeframe I was trying to do it in.
There were no new records I was excited about that made me go, “I want to work with this guy.” But Alter Bridge had a new record and I thought the bass and drums on it were fucking amazing. I talked to Myles [Kennedy] about it and he said, “I’ve been working with [Baskette] for a while.” But Myles has never pushed Mike on me, and he wouldn’t give me anything to go on. Myles just said, “You’ve got to call him.”
So I called Mike and we had a great conversation because he was a tape engineer at NRG [Recording Studios] back in the day.
He has altered his style to adapt to the modern
way people are recording, but he’s really a tape engineer. So that helped. And then we had a conversation about guitars. I’m really sensitive at this point about guitar sounds because I’ve found that most of the people I’ve worked with don’t really know enough—or want to know enough—about achieving a great guitar sound without using a bunch of stuff. That’s the way everybody’s used to doing it. It’s like, we’ll just use plug-ins and some Line 6 ... all the shit I would never use.
And so when it comes to just miking an amp and getting a great sound out of it, they’re like a deer in headlights. It becomes a situation where I have to tell them what to do, and that doesn’t really work because I don’t know that much [laughs]. I’m not a great engineer, obviously because I don’t love the studio that much. Like
I said, it doesn’t fascinate me. It’s just not my thing.
We had a really great time with [Baskette] and he’s a really hard worker, which is great ’cuz
I’m a hard worker—everybody in the band is really fucking focused.
So how did you approach the guitar sounds with him?
We went to his studio in Orlando. All my stuff is pretty spontaneous in the sense that whatever
I was doing in rehearsal, that first thing that fits, melodic-wise and whatever, I tend to just stick with ’cuz that’s my gut feeling. Usually the first few takes is what’s going to be on a record, but he pushed me past that, to the point where I was improvising off myself. Whatever it was I had, he kept having me play until I left that behind and started doing other things with it. And it was really cool because no one had had the patience or wherewithal to do that with me, or get me to listen to them either. After a couple of takes you lose the spontaneity, but if you keep going, the spontaneity comes back because you’re not doing what you thought you were going to do.
That was probably exciting for you.
Oh yeah, man, I had a blast! As far as guitar sounds are concerned, I just loved that he would go above and beyond the call of duty—even to the point where I was fine and he’d go, “No, no. We’re going to keep going.”